“Tropicalization”: Warm Mediterranean as a Storm Maker

“Tropicalization”: Warm Mediterranean as a Storm Maker

Devastating forest fires, dry rivers and water shortages. In southern Europe, one heat wave follows the next this summer, and it’s not uncommon to reach 40 degrees. In Italy, 2022 is on track to be the hottest year on record. The Mediterranean region is a climate change hotspot, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its latest status report.

What happens on land affects water. Scientists call the phenomenon a marine heat wave when water warms up dramatically over a long period of time. Temperatures have been extremely high since May this year.

Hot Mediterranean like the Caribbean

According to the Center for Environmental Studies in the Mediterranean (CEAM), based in Valencia, Spain, the average surface temperature of the Mediterranean is currently between 27 and 28 degrees. The current values ​​are among the highest temperatures ever measured in the Mediterranean and, in fact, are typical of the Caribbean.

View of the Tyrrhenian Sea

Manuel Oberhuber The Tyrrhenian Sea is particularly hot up to 30 degrees

almost no refreshment

In some parts of the Mediterranean it is even warmer. Bathers on the coasts of the Balearic Islands and in the Tyrrhenian Sea between Corsica and Calabria can hardly cool off in the 30 degree hot water, the water here is up to six degrees warmer than usual. Since the end of June, the Adriatic Sea, which is so popular, has risen to 28 degrees several times and is more like a bathtub.

If the water is so hot, the natural air conditioning system loses its effect during your beach holiday. The daily sea breeze, the constant wind that blows from the sea to the land, often keeps temperatures bearable on the beach, in contrast to the warmer interior. If the sea is as warm as this year, the sea breeze is also a hot hair dryer.

New Fish Species – Jellyfish as a Spoiler

Experts warn of the impact of the “tropicalization” of the Mediterranean on fisheries and certain coral species and are concerned about changes in the ecosystem.

600 species of tropical fish have already spread across the Mediterranean in recent years, migrating through the Suez Canal, for example, and displacing native species that are very warm. Because warmer water also means less oxygen.

Jellyfish invasions, increasingly reported in summer, are also a sign of climate change. These include stinging jellyfish, which can cause painful skin lesions when touched.

Medicanes Threaten in Autumn

For this autumn, a warm Mediterranean means an increased potential for storms and heavy rains. The energy stored in water doesn’t just disappear, it is released into the atmosphere.

Water temperature in the Mediterranean Sea on 08/08/2022 and 08/09/2022 (daily average at a depth of 1.5 m) according to Copernicus Marine’s “Global Ocean 1/12° Physics Analysis and Forecast” model Service.

If colder air lows hit the Mediterranean region again from September onwards, Medicanes could form due to the warm water. This is what hurricane-like storm casualties are called in the Mediterranean. They can bring large amounts of rain in a short time, violent storms and high-speed winds.

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Similar to tropical cyclones, a cloudless eye forms in the deep center. Last year, in October, a Medicane hit Malta and eastern Sicily. The city of Catania was flooded.

Warming trend for years

The Mediterranean Sea has been warming continuously for years – a clear consequence of global warming, which is not just limited to air temperatures. Since the 1980s alone, the Mediterranean has warmed up to two degrees.

Forecasts for the future show more warming on land and in water. As a result, classic Mediterranean summer holidays may become less attractive in the future. And so, in the future, it can be said more often in the summer: “Stockholm instead of Rome”. This was the New York Times headline recently and addressed the possible change in travel behavior as a result of the climate crisis.